January 21, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Book Review: The Conscious Project Leader

By Linky van der Merwe

The Conscious Project LeaderWhen I was contacted by Colin Ellis to do a review of his new book: “The Conscious Project Leader”, I was curious to find out what new can be said about this well covered topic?  I was pleasantly surprised!

Colin has a fresh perspective on project management, resulting in a book that you cannot put down once you start reading it. His wisdom comes from two decades of experience (in the coal face, as he calls it) and from doing projects on three different continents, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Colin is also a speaker, writer and mentor on Conscious Project Leadership. One of his outstanding qualities, seems to be his sense of humour.

Leadership and Culture

The book is written from the perspective of how to create a culture of success for your projects, your team and yourself. Although leadership is covered in detail, much focus is also given to culture; like hiring, having a vision, collaboration, stakeholder satisfaction and celebrating success.

He covers just enough technical project management to make the book complete and without any unnecessary jargon that may confuse a reader. It is written in an informal style that is very engaging.

The chapters are short and to the point. There are numerous references to other books to read, videos to watch and actions to take, putting the reader on a journey of self-discovery and development towards becoming a conscious leader.

Lift Project Performance

What I compassionately agree with Colin, is that projects can change the world and that it’s frustrating that a big percentage of projects continue to fail. This book is his contribution to improve project success by helping professionals to be great project leaders and to give them the knowledge to be consistently successful. Another point we agree on is that we believe project success stories make the best lessons to learn.

Colin argues that projects are about people and that perhaps too much emphasis is placed on methods and processes and not enough on developing leaders who are responsible and accountable for project delivery.

Although I don’t disagree with that, I believe that developing leadership skills is equally important to having the right foundation of using methods and processes consistently. Training approaches should put equal weighting on both hard, as well as soft skills.

Conscious Leadership

Once you finish reading, Colin reminds you that this is just the beginning of your journey towards Conscious Project Leadership and that you have a big responsibility to apply your knowledge and to create the culture that will contribute to success. He challenges his fellow project practitioners to help make our profession proud.


Compared to other Project Leadership books that I have reviewed before, like “Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers by Michel Dion and The Power of Project Leadership by Susanne Madsen, I think this book complements what is already written.

It is modern in the sense that you can read it on a mobile device and visit the links at the end of chapters immediately. Colin has also prepared relevant quotes that he encourages the reader to share with their social networks using #CPL. It may start a movement under professionals who are committed to change.

I can recommend this book to all project practitioners, PMO managers/directors and people who have the opportunity to coach and mentor new and inexperienced project leaders.

You will find this book on Amazon and on Colin’s website, The Conscious Project Leader.


Leadership and the Project Manager – What Leadership Role to Adopt?

Source: The Project Manager, Author Louise Worsley

This article is about the important aspect of leadership and what type of leadership role the project manager should adopt.

In projects, the leadership role of the project manager must be focused on ‘action’ leadership while the sponsor must take the ‘visionary’ and political leadership positions for the project to have any chance of success.  This will be explained by looking at the Pentagon model of project leadership.

Pentagon model of project leadership

The pentagon model of project leadership suggests five distinct leadership roles.  These do not operate in isolation, but are necessary elements contributing to the leadership of change. Individuals may take on several of these leadership roles, or more than one person may contribute to one area. However, an absence or failure of leadership in any one of these key areas will put at risk the entire project or programme.
Leadership and the Project Manager


Ethics and the personal responsibilities of the project manager

The professional bodies in project management all have a code of ethics for project managers.  The PMI’s code of ethics is summed up as:

As practitioners of project management, we are committed to doing what is right and honorable. We set high standards for ourselves and we aspire to meet these standards in all aspects of our lives—at work, at home, and in service to our profession.

The Association for Project Management identify that project managers have personal responsibilities that go “beyond those immediately implied by their contract with employers or clients”.  This is expanded upon further and two statements are particularly relevant to this discussion.  The project manager should:

  • act in the best interests of their employer and clients in all business and professional matters,  having regard to wider public interest concerns and those of any employer or colleague;
  • declare and appropriately manage all matters which are, or could be construed as, a conflict of interests.

On complex projects, project managers are inevitably faced with conflicts of interest.  The most important personal attributes for successful project managers relate to having the integrity (and in some cases bravery) to expose these concerns, and the tenacity to engage as vigorously as required with all stakeholders to seek out the best possible solutions. Managing conflict, in the sense of identifying and finding negotiated solutions to often complex competing stakeholder agendas, is part of the day-job for project managers involved in politically sensitive projects.

Louise Worsley is Director of PiCubed and lectures on the UCT executive development programme.  You may contact her at: info@pi3.co.za

Please share your thoughts about Leadership and Project Managers in the comments section below.

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